Agenda

13th June 1997 at 01:00
Q

I am a fairly new co-opted governor from business and arrived after the chairman's election. I was immediately shocked by the amateurish way meetings were chaired; so much time wasted, people allowed to be rambling and anecdotal, everybody having to have a say. We eventually reach a decision, but the chairman carries being democratic to the point of letting a lot of half-wits happily spend an evening doing 10 minutes' real work. People like him, but I get frustrated as I am used to meetings where recommendations are succinctly made and rapidly agreed. Can a chairman be voted out of office?

* We've had the same chair a long time and he has always been rather a one-man band. We put up with it because nobody really wanted the job. He's efficient, I suppose, and the head gets on well with him, some think too well. The head is not a governor but gets his way behind the scenes.

But now our usually meek governors are angry about something that was cooked up in this way and very nearly steam-rollered through. It would have been disastrous for our community. Fortunately, we found out in time and threw the whole proposition out, much to the annoyance of the head and chair. Now we hear the chair has been dissociating himself from our decision. This goes on in council circles, in the pub, and even the PTA. He's saying openly he'll outwit us next time and indeed we think he's already plotting a comeback. Can we sack him?

A

Yes, there is a procedure for sacking a chair. It comes under Regulation 9 (3A a) of the Governors' Regulations (Statutory Instrument 1503 of 1989 as amended) which you will find in the back of the Department for Education's School Governors: a guide to the law. You have to pass a resolution at two consecutive meetings not more than 14 days apart, and the removal of the chair has to be an item on the agenda for both. The proposer has to give reasons and the chair has the right of reply.

I don't see the chair in the first question as a suitable case for treatment. His style seems to be acceptable to most governors and, if they had to choose between a short meeting and one where they all had a say, I think I know which they'd pick. A governing body is also a collection of volunteers - and often the price of successful voluntary work in which everybody pulls together is that you can't be streamlined as well. But in the end the chair presides with the consent of the majority. The writer could introduce the odd good habit - like a rough timetable for the meeting - which they all accept in advance, but I don't think they'll change a lot.

In a sense, the other governing body has also "negotiated" a particular relationship, if passively, which is a sell-out of corporate power. They have now found this to be dangerous and are probably all ready to change that relationship. It is for them to decide whether it is to be the Regulation 9 procedure or a strong warning. But to me there is nothing worse than disloyalty.

I spoke of a "choice" between a participatory and a short meeting. I also spoke of a "negotiated" relationship in which certain tacit delegations of power take place. There is usually some such unwritten bargain. In fact it would be sensible for all of us to be a bit more explicit about the chair's role and the relationship we want, discussing it before we do the electing.

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